Local English-Language Council Draws Praise, Criticism Skip to content
Vík í Mýrdal
Photo: Golli. The beach in Vík í Mýrdal.

Local English-Language Council Draws Praise, Criticism

The unique English-language council in the Mýrdalshreppur municipality has ignited debate and public discussion, particularly after its recent receipt of a community recognition award. Women of Multicultural Ethnicity Network (W.O.M.E.N. in Iceland) supports the initiative, emphasising its importance in integrating immigrants into the community and encouraging other municipalities to follow suit.

Hot-button issue

Considerable discussion has arisen about the administration of the Mýrdalshreppur municipality in South Iceland – the only municipality in Iceland where a special English-language council advises the local authorities, RÚV reports. The English-language council was established at the time of the 2022 municipal elections in Mýrdalshreppur, given especially that the majority of the residents in the municipality do not speak Icelandic as their first language.

Read More: Boom Town (On the growth of Vík í Mýrdal)

In an op-ed for Visir, journalist Snorri Másson questioned whether it was genuinely “prize-worthy” for Mýrdalshreppur to have received a community recognition award from the Icelandic Regional Development Institute (Byggðastofnun) for the English-language council.

In response, Einar Freyr Elínarson, the mayor of Mýrdalshreppur, countered in another op-ed asking if greatly increased democratic participation was not worthy of accolades, adding that rhetoric like Snorri’s promotes polarisation.

Statement in support

In light of this ongoing discussion, RÚV contacted the Women Of Multicultural Ethnicity Network (W.O.M.E.N. in Iceland) for a response. The organisation responded with the following statement, offering its support of the English-language council in Mýrdalshreppur.

“As W.O.M.E.N we support the initiative of an English-speaking council as created in Mýrdalshreppur. In doing so Mýrdalshreppur not only creates an opportunity for immigrants to learn about the Icelandic political system but also encourages them to become active participants in our society. Many immigrants in the countryside, especially those working in the tourist sector, are very isolated from society and projects like this help prevent our society from becoming segregated as has already happened in many countries in Europe. Having the possibility to participate with varying proficiencies of Icelandic will increase both the motivation as well as the opportunity to practise and improve one’s Icelandic. We therefore hope that other municipalities will take note and follow this example.”

W.O.M.E.N. in Iceland was founded on October 24, 2003, with the aim to “unite, to express and address the interests and issues of women of foreign origin living in Iceland in order to bring about equality for them as women and as foreigners in all areas of society.”

To learn more about the English-language council in Mýrdalshreppur, read our article Boom Town from the Iceland Review magazine.

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